Obit scribblers are calling John McCain a war “hero.” Well, I have to concede that unlike so many warmongering chickenhawks such as Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan and most other neocons, McCain did actually serve in the military. But the same could be said for nearly all top Nazis including Hitler and Goering; they fought in a war and they loved war. They were destructive persons who learned nothing positive from their military experience.
Of course, few of the pundits and politicians who are eulogizing McCain would wish to include Nazis in their hall of fame, nor would most of them care to designate most neocons as anything less than patriots. So what is it that might qualify someone as a hero, or as a war criminal? Having been in the military, I sometimes think about that. These are some thoughts that come to mind.
Heroism is sort of like morality, it’s usually defined by the powers that be. And a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time. An example of that would be the five Marines in the famous photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. What made them more heroic than the many thousands of other GIs who fought on that and other islands in the Pacific, you might ask. And the answer is: time and place, plus a photographer to take their picture. So they were in a dramatic photo, and that was at a time when the government needed heroes to sell war bonds.
Military discipline is such that soldiers tend to do…